Mattel's New Barbie Doll with Down Syndrome Promotes Diversity and Inclusion in Play

Mattel has released the first-ever Barbie doll representing a person with Down syndrome, marking a significant step in the company's commitment to promoting diversity and inclusivity through play. According to Lisa McKnight, the executive vice president and global head of Barbie & dolls at Mattel, the new doll was created to allow even more children to see themselves in Barbie. The company has received criticism in the past for promoting unrealistic beauty standards, but in recent years, it has taken steps towards greater diversity by introducing dolls with disabilities such as wheelchairs, vitiligo, hearing aids, and prosthetic limbs.

Mattel's 2023 Fashionistas lineup is said to be its most diverse doll line yet, featuring the doll with Down syndrome among others. "Our goal is to enable all children to see themselves in Barbie, while also encouraging children to play with dolls who do not look like themselves," McKnight said in a statement. "Doll play outside of a child's own lived experience can teach understanding and build a greater sense of empathy, leading to a more accepting world."

Mattel worked with the National Down Syndrome Society to ensure the accuracy of the doll's representation. The NDSS reported that the doll's body was shaped to include a shorter frame, longer torso, and a round face with smaller ears and almond-shaped, slanted eyes. The doll is dressed in a yellow and blue outfit with butterfly symbols associated with Down syndrome awareness, and even the pink necklace has special meaning, with three upward chevrons representing the three copies of the 21st chromosome associated with the condition.

According to Kandi Pickard, the President and CEO of the NDSS, "This Barbie serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of representation. It is a huge step forward for inclusion and a moment that we are celebrating." British model Ellie Goldstein, who has Down syndrome, partnered with Mattel to share her emotional response to the doll's release on Instagram. "When I saw the doll I felt so emotional and proud. It means a lot to me that children will be able to play with the doll and learn that everyone is different," she wrote. "Diversity is important as people need to see more people like me out there in the world and not be hidden away, Barbie will help make this happen."

The Barbie doll with Down syndrome is set to hit major retailers this summer and fall, retailing for $10.99. Mattel's commitment to promoting inclusivity and diversity through play is a positive step forward in creating a more accepting world for all children. By providing dolls that represent a broad range of experiences and identities, the company is teaching empathy and understanding from a young age. This move also represents a significant shift away from traditional beauty standards and towards a more diverse and representative view of what beauty truly means. As the world continues to evolve and become more inclusive, Mattel's efforts to keep up with these changes are commendable and necessary.

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